Mabuyane warns ANC provincial executive against another ‘festival of chairs’ at next conference

As the ANC in Eastern Cape prepares for its elective congress, its chairperson, Oscar Mabuyane, has called on provincial leaders to accept the outcomes of the conference. 

Mabuyane, who is poised to be reelected as the party chair, was speaking during a special provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting on Monday. 

In his opening remarks, Mabuyane said members of the  PEC must rally behind the decision of the elective congress “however aggrieved we may be about a decision that has been taken”. He added that provincial leaders must use internal organisational platforms to express dissatisfaction with decisions. 

“What is not an option for members of the PEC is to go outside ANC structures and platforms and express our sentiments in a manner that undermines the decision that has been taken and the collective that has taken the decision,” he said. 

“When we violate organisational principles, we are acting in a manner that violates the ANC constitution and the solemn declaration we made upon being accepted as members of this gigantic national liberation movement. In such instances, the organisation will have no option than to act.” 

In September 2017, the province held its 8th elective conference, dubbed the festival of chairs, where Mabuyane emerged as party chair. The conference descended into chaos when factions in the delegation of party members used chairs as weapons against one another, injuring many. 

The result of the conference was highly debated in the party and the then president and deputy president, Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, deferred on whether the national executive committee (NEC) should accept the outcomes. 

This led to court challenges against Mabuyane’s election. 

The NEC also held its own investigation, led by KwaZulu-Natal heavyweight Sbu Ndebele. He found that failure to finalise and resolve the acceptance of credentials, ensuring the correct representatives of branches at the conference was a material failure and detracted from a free and fair election. 

Ndebele’s report largely vindicated the demand by supporters of the then provincial chair, Phumullo Masualle, that the conference should not have gone ahead after the violence during the presentation of credentials.

In his statement on Monday, Mabuyane said the province must go into its conferences  with the aim of emerging with a stronger, united and coherent ANC that is an instrument for transformation in the hands of the people. 

He said the PEC has a responsibility to ensure it delivers credible conferences that are characterised by maximum unity and cohesion. 

“PEC members of the ANC are expected to carry out themselves in a manner that is consistent with the discipline of the organisation, particularly at this level. We cannot explain the importance of preserving the principle of collective leadership to branches and do the same exercise to members of the PEC.” 

The Eastern Cape is expected to hold several regional conferences early next year. The one to watch is the OR Tambo regional conference, which will be the litmus test on whether Mabuyane and, by extension, Ramaphosa’s faction will emerge as the favourites in the provincial conference scheduled for early next year. 

A win for the Mabuyane faction in the region will also mean that ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe has a good chance of lobbying support to become the next deputy president. 

The Mabuyane faction has already received a win because its proposed regional chair, Mesuli Ngqondwana, was elected as mayor of the OR Tambo district municipality last week.

The Mabuyane-led PEC is facing tension with its former allies in the OR Tambo region after the five-year suspension of municipality speaker Xolile Nkompela and deputy mayor Robert Nogumla was overturned by the national disciplinary committee. 

Kompela, who once lobbied for Mabuyane against the then chair, Masualle, is also said to have changed alliances and now favours Babalo Madikizela as chair. Hopes of those in the coalition of the wounded in the province are said to be resting with Madikizela, who they hope can topple or shake up Mabuyane’s firm grasp in the regions and on the PEC. 

The OR Tambo region is the second biggest ANC region after eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal and arguably one of the most influential regions of the ANC. It was central to the failed attempt at a third term by former president Thabo Mbeki. The region voted instead for Zuma at the watershed Polokwane conference.

Mabuyane has indicated that he will run for a second term. 

Mabuyane leads one of the ANC’s biggest provinces after KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. Winning over ANC delegates and branches when the party heads to its 55th national conference next year — alongside other Ramaphosa allies such as the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal’s secretary, Mdumiseni Ntuli, and the party’s Limpopo secretary, Soviet Lekganyane — will guarantee Ramaphosa a second term in office.

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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